One of the things I like the most about Dark Horse as a publisher is the amount of great anthologies they put out. This collection of colored shorts is another fine example, and is a great introduction to Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, a Ronin traveling the country helping those in need along the way.
The four stories presented give the reader a bit of everything they would find in the larger narrative of Usagi Yojimbo, yet these are all nicely self-contained stories. There is a lot showcased here, from slap-stick comedy to supernatural mystery. My personal favorite of this anthology is Saya; in this tale, Usagi encounters a brash Samurai who makes a big deal over a minor offense. It’s the type of samurai story I love, a test of the warrior’s code that ends with a simple lesson. Usagi shows the samurai that even though he may be a Ronin, he understands what it means to be a true samurai, a humble servant of the people.
Usagi Yojimbo is Stan Sakai’s love letter to previous samurai heroes of the past – you can see the influences from the works of Akira Kurosawa, Kazuo Koike, and Goseki Kojima. Primarily, his work is presented in black & white, but in this color collection, Tom Luth does a marvelous job adding to Sakai’s detailed work, making some of the stories really shine. Stan Sakai continues to do what he does best: being an incredible storyteller, there is not much you can say about him that hasn’t already been said. Each story has a different feel and tone, yet all are illustrated beautifully.
If you’ve ever been interested in reading some Usagi Yojimbo stories, then this is the book to pick up. Created 20 years ago by Stan Sakai, there is a lot of back story to Usagi Yojimbo, which can be daunting to a new reader. This is why this anthology does a great job of showcasing what makes the character so great. It’s a perfect jumping-on point for readers of all ages. If you see this in the shop, definitely pick it up – you won’t be disappointed.